Still shipping, and now hiring (Trident Kickstarter Update #31)

Original post: July 27, 2018

Hello everyone,

We’ve been hard at work producing Tridents over the last couple of months, and have now shipped hundreds of vehicles to customers around the world. Since our last update, we experienced some additional delays in production due to a temporary inventory shortage, but we’re continuing to move through our backlog at a steady pace and still expect to complete fulfillment over the next few months. We’re doing our best to fulfill orders as quickly as we can, and we’d like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding.

For those of you who have already received your Trident, we’d like to thank you for your continued feedback on your experience with the vehicle and its interface. We’ve already been able to make some improvements based on your messages, and we will continue to incorporate your feedback into future refinements.

We’ve also recently seen some amazing new expeditions with Trident on Open Explorer. If you haven’t been following the development of Open Explorer since we partnered with National Geographic, here are a few of our favorite expeditions that we recommend you check out!

Discovering Mossel Bays Secret: Oceans Research and OpenROV

The Search for the Nautilus Egg

Borneo Coral Reefs and Fish Bombing

This update will mainly describe what we’re working on to keep production running smoothly and advance product support. We’ve also realized that some of the current issues we’re facing are things you - our community - may be able to help with. Specifically, if you know someone who seems like the perfect fit for one the new roles we’re looking to fill, please let us know. More on that below.

Software Support

Software is an extraordinarily important part of our product, and developing it for Trident the right way has been a tremendous undertaking. As anyone who has worked on complex embedded systems can attest to, creating a software architecture that is not only functional, but also optimized for efficiency and robust against edge-case failures - all with limited computational resources - can be extremely challenging. During the earlier phases of Trident development, our software team put great effort into designing a system from the ground up that would be dependable for field work and expandable enough to facilitate our future technical ambitions. Now that we are shipping Tridents, our focus has shifted to increasing robustness and building out the features people want most based on feedback from the field. Our software team is small, so prioritizing which things to work on has been a delicate task. People who got Tridents early have noticed that we’ve been slowly rolling out improvements through software updates as we can get to them. We’ve been careful to test each update we deploy thoroughly, rather than rushing out new features, which could introduce new bugs. Now we’re ready to move faster, and one of our main focuses right now is expanding our software team.

We are opening up four new software positions at OpenROV:

  • Sr. Embedded Linux Developer
  • Mobile lead
  • Android developer
  • Test Engineer

We would like to bring on people with mid to senior level experience, extraordinary character, and (if you’re reading this message you probably already qualify) a deep passion for creating technology that enables exploration. If this sounds like you, please check out our more detailed job descriptions here. We’d love to hear from you!

Even with our limited software development resources, we’ve been able to make some great progress on our OpenROV Cockpit App. We’re still perfecting the user interface, but here is an example of what it looks like. You can currently find OpenROV Cockpit in the Google Play store. Please let us know what you think!

OpenROV Trident

Annotated view of Trident Cockpit pilot screen

Supply Chain

Keeping our production line running requires us to keep a steady quantity of necessary parts on hand. If a single item is missing when it is needed, it can bring the entire production line to a halt. The lead time for some of our parts can be as high as several months, so coordinating purchasing with assembly is critical. Many of the sub-assemblies we use in Trident are composed of parts that have to be ordered from one vendor, sent to a different vendor for secondary processing, and then shipped to our manufacturer for final assembly. Our engineers who are managing supply chain often also need to arrange shipping and manufacturing windows far in advance according to the schedule of each respective factory. Needless to say, it’s very easy for cascading delays to occur when even a small hold-up happens, and a lot of the work we’ve been doing lately has related to perfecting a process that makes our supply chain robust against these types of inevitable troubles.

To help keep our supply chain running smoothly and help us continue to scale production beyond Kickstarter fulfillment, we’re looking to hire a Supply Chain Manager. This person should be very detail oriented and have extraordinary organizational skills as well as previous supply chain management experience. You can check out our job description for this position in the link provided above.

Resource Allocation

As more and more people receive their Tridents, we’ve continued to get requests for additional features that will help people with the jobs they’re doing. Some of these features relate to accessories and other hardware that can be used with the vehicle, and other requests have to do with software capabilities that people would like us to add to the system. One of our dreams for Trident has been to enable new capabilities for audiences that have never had access to underwater drones before. Given our limited time, financial, and human resources, it has not been possible for us to immediately pursue all of the capabilities we’ve gotten requests for, but we’d like to address the needs of as many people as possible and get a sense for what developments to prioritize. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, we’ve created this quick survey to ask our community about add-ons and features they’d like to see most.

We’re proud that our production line is up and running, and we’re even more proud that the people we’ve shipped Tridents to are happy with the product. As time goes on, we’ll continue to improve it and introduce features that make it progressively more capable. We want to create more than just a community of owners — with the thousands of Tridents we plan to ship by the end of the year, we hope that together we’ll have created a new movement in underwater exploration. As always, thank you for your support.

… And in case you’ve been following Shark Week on the Discovery Channel, you may have caught a glimpse of Trident being used to research bull sharks. Here’s an image that was posted on Twitter by @SamuelCReynolds. Thanks again for being a part of this journey!

OpenROV Trident

Trident investigating bull sharks on Shark Week